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Letter from the publisher Joey Amato Managing Editor Ben Rock associate editor Santiago Melli-Huber Publisher
Estella Pan Book Reviewer Sebastian Fortino Business editor A.J. Busé Business Correspondent Michael Burcham, PhD Business Writers Dan J. Groover, Lisa Howe Fitness Editor Mark Allyn Nimmo Food & Wine Editor John Winnett Life & Style Writers Kyle Kressin, Caitlin Mitchell Music Editor Ron Slomowicz Political Editor Jim Schmidt Arts & entertainment editor
photo by Kyle Poffenbarger
With a new year comes new goals, dreams, and challenges. We will probably make a list of New Year’s resolutions. Some of us will follow through with them; others won’t. However, it is always great to witness those who do follow through. When we first launched UNITE, we made a promise to give back to the community and since last March, we have donated over $6,000 worth of advertising space to various organizations. We will continue to give back in 2014 as well. This I can promise. It’s crazy to think our little Nashville magazine has garnered so much positive attention in cities around the country. Most recently, the publisher of the largest LGBT travel publication in the world came up to me at a conference in Fort Lauderdale and congratulated me on our success and for bringing attention to Nashville’s thriving LGBT community. Nashville is on the cusp of something bigger and greater than any one of us can imagine. The energy in our city is radiant, and we have become the topic of conservation for a lot of people, some who have visited Nashville, others who have vowed to visit this year. With a growing city and a growing LGBT community comes greater responsibility. Most recently, an article was published about Nashville stating that our LGBT nightlife was thriving but our nonprofits seemed fragmented. This needs to change. We need to work together! Let’s make it our goal in 2014 to make our city the best in the country. Yes, other cities have larger LGBT populations than Nashville, but our spirit and our drive is far more prevalent. Nashville has become a global empire in its own right. As the world watches our city evolve, it is our job to ensure our LGBT community evolves with it. I encourage those of you who currently are not involved with an organization to get involved. Giving back through time or donations is not only a great way to help a charity, it is also a great way to make new friends. You don’t have to give to everyone—just pick one charity that is close to your heart. If we all give a little more this year, it will go a long way! -Joey
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table of contents
FEATURE NASHVILLE’S HOTTEST BUSINESSMEN 13 LAURA BELL BUNDY 26 LOCAL STARS MAC 24 OUTCENTRAL/JOE MORRIS 30 ABBY RUBENFELD 32 BUSINESS CHAMBER CHAT NISSAN DOLLAR GENERAL
8 10 22
NOW TIME TO PLAY 36 FITNESS NASHVILLE’S TOP SPOTS
BOOK REVIEW ELLIOT TIBER
inspire. engage. evolve. Equality Gala 3.8.14
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Chamber Chat by Lisa Howe
After experiencing a milestone year in 2013, the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce would like to appreciate the work and dedication of its outgoing board members Brian Fitzpatrick, Bo Robertson, and Pam Sheffer. The NLGBTCC Board of Directors has added a diverse, widely talented, and experienced group of new board members for 2014. Randy Rayburn is a well-known Nashville entrepreneur and community leader who began his career in the restaurant industry in 1975 as a bus boy. He launched the Nashville staple Sunset Grill in 1990 and has since added Midtown Cafe and Cabana to his list of successful ventures. Rayburn is widely known and respected as a community leader. He is a champion of the Music City Center, having led the way in its proposal and traveled around the country recruiting conventions to Nashville until it became a reality. Rosa Berger joined Fifth Third Bank in 2011 and currently manages the Music Row banking center in Hillsboro Village. With over 15 years of financial management experience, she has received multiple awards for production and performance. Berger is the co-leader of the Fifth Third Bank LGBT Business Resource Group and is very active in the Nashville community. Lending her time to Nashville Cares, The Oasis Center, CABLE, Nashville Pride, and Nashville in Harmony, Berger is a familiar face in the nonprofit and LGBT activist space. She joins the Board of Directors after serving on the membership committee.
photo courtesy of Fifth Third Bank
William Bullens is a hospitality professional with a true passion for communications. Currently the business travel and entertainment sales manager at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown, he has worked in the sales and hospitality industry for more than 10 years. Previously managing entertainment sales at The Hutton Hotel and The Hermitage Hotel, Bullens is accustomed to a fast-paced, revenue-centric business environment. He has been an active player in Nashvilleâ€™s LGBT community and political scene for many years and his work on the Chamber Membership Committee contributed to its growth last year. Sara McManigal is currently the director of talent at Emma,
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a company she has helped to build from the ground up over the past 10 years. Emma is locally owned and offers partner benefits. McManigal and her company are experts in information technology and services, creating simple, impactful, and automated communication plans for over 40,000 customers. Her resources and experience are focused in the art of growing a business while building great relationships with customers, members, and partners. She spearheaded a partnership between Emma and the LGBT Chamber two years ago. John Park is a partner at Waller Law, focusing on labor and employment law. He helps employers gain and maintain disadvatanged, LGBT, or minority business enterprise status under federal, state, and local agency certification programs. Park was instrumental in Waller becoming the founding partner of the Supplier Diversity Initiative at the LGBT Chamber. He also helps clients reach the business result that they want to achieve, proactively addressing employee issues to minimize exposure to employment litigation. Park was awarded the 2013 Best Lawyers under 40 by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. Joe Woolley was recently named the marketing and communications director for the national nonprofit organization Stand for Children. He has served on the board of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival and was integral to the creation of the Nashville Balletâ€™s Night OUT at the Ballet. Woolley has been involved in LGBT rights advocacy on a local and national level for more than a decade and is a familiar and respected community leader with an enviable sphere of influence. His action-oriented leadership style is widely known for its ability to influence others as well as produce results. The NLGBTCC calls for nominations for its upcoming Excellence in Business Awards presented by CURB Records. January 17 is the deadline for nominees to submit their questionnaires for awards in the categories of Leadership in the Arts, Community Service, Ally Award, Business Leader of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, and Corporate Diversity. Find information on the Chamber website, http://nashvilleglbtchamber.org.
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DRIVING WORKPLACE INCLUSION by Paige Presley
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photo courtesy of Nissan
As Nashville’s population continues to grow and more major businesses move to the middle Tennessee area, a number of employers are working to become more competitive in their recruitment and retention efforts by being as inclusive as possible. When it comes to courting the LGBT community, many companies may offer an appealing benefits package that includes domestic partner benefits, but the team at Nissan has found that the most effective way to hang on to talented employees is through a more comprehensive approach that fosters a more inclusive environment in the workplace. “Nissan proudly has one of the most diverse customer bases in the automotive industry, and we want to ensure that our workforce reflects that,” said Robert Wilson, director of diversity and inclusion at Nissan, a company that recently received a perfect score of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI). That’s up 70 points from two years ago, marking one of the fastest rises in the history of the index. “What is truly impressive about the leadership team at Nissan is that they already
understand the need to be more strategic in how they approach diversity, and there is buy-in from the very top,” said Corbette Doyle, lecturer in organizational leadership at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and a member of Nissan’s executive diversity council. “Because they share a sense of urgency to move forward, Nissan has been able to execute a number of successful initiatives in the last year, such as the implementation of a companywide diversity training program and the launch of Nissan’s LGBT affinity group, the GayStraight Alliance at Nissan (GSAN).” GSAN began forming in late 2012 with about a dozen Nissan employees who expressed interest in a group that could support LGBT employees and allies. GSAN officially launched in July 2013, and since then, the group has expanded to nearly 100 members, making it one of the fastest-growing and most engaging of Nissan’s employee resource groups. The team, more than half of which are allies, has taken an integrated approach in its efforts with significant collaboration with other Nissan affinity groups, and its outreach programs are making a difference in terms of sales, recruiting, retention, and satisfaction.
The group has worked closely with sales operations teams to develop a way to track purchases driven by Nissan’s involvement in the community. Since June the company already has seen a measurable return on investment in events such as Pride festivals, HRC’s Equality Dinner, and Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce activities. “We want GSAN to serve as a catalyst that drives a culture of equality providing a safe, respectful, inclusive, and supportive environment for our employees, vendor partners, and customers,” said Cathy Lively, ally supporter and co-chair of GSAN. “Looking at the successes we’ve had just in the last year makes us really eager to carry that momentum forward as we amp up our presence at LGBT events and get more involved with civic and philanthropic organizations that serve the LGBT community,” said Dave Damron, co-chair of GSAN. The team at Nissan realizes that it’s about more than the bottom line—it’s about making the human connection. Wilson explained that, looking ahead, the team plans to take their successes within their headquarters and the Nashville community and expand them to become more relevant on a national basis.
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The Entrepreneurs The Hottest Businessmen in Nashville by Joey Amato
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john McManus John McManus is a lifelong Tennessean, a native of Memphis and a resident of Nashville. He has spent his entire adult career in public service at the state and federal levels specializing in regulatory, legislative, administrative, and media affairs. He is currently a legislative liaison and public information officer with the State of Tennessee, focusing on human resource policy. Along with his government service, McManus also currently serves as the founder & executive director of the Sunlight Project. “The Sunlight Project is a charitable group dedicated to bringing happiness and relief to the elderly and people with disabilities living in Tennessee’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” he says. Through personal visitations, art service projects, volunteer activities, and facility enhancements, the organization aims to bring a smile and companionship to people who need it most. “The Sunlight Project works to build its own organized structure that maintains a network of compassionate volunteers to provide companionship to people in need in a sustainable way.” McManus is a graduate of the University of Memphis and a member of the Tennessee State Museum’s Young Professionals Council. He is a proud resident of Nashville’s Hillsboro-West End neighborhood.
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Jason Facio Jason Facio is a nationally recognized business leader in the beauty industry. His recent acquisition of Element Salon—listed as one of Elle Magazine’s top 100 salons three years in a row—is his latest accomplishment on a list of many, including his recent New York elopement with longtime partner, Paul Vasterling, chief executive officer and artistic director of the Nashville Ballet. “I’m building on the shoulders of giants,” Facio says about Element Salon’s bright future. He bought the business after the death of founder and celebrity stylist Kevin Moser, who built the exquisitely tasteful salon for the impressive and talented team of editorial stylists he had assembled from around the country. “Element is not a mega-salon,” Facio explains. “It’s a jewel in the heart of Green Hills, and this small boutique-salon is playing an important role on the beauty industry’s national landscape.” After leading the turnaround of a local salon and skincare business, Facio freelanced as a consultant for other small business owners, establishing a network of salons that embrace healthy practices and are open to collaborations. The L’Oréal national headquarters in New York City took notice and invited him to join a project composed of the top 300 beauty industry business leaders in the nation who collaborate in shaping the future of the industry. “I find, in business, it’s much healthier to embrace a philosophy of abundance as opposed to scarcity,” Facio says. “It’s best to approach colleagues as something other than competition. Creating an ‘us versus them’ mentality—although tempting—is not productive; on the contrary, it’s a complete waste of energy. The more difficult task is to engage our competitors on a higher level, inviting them to collaborate with us so that, together, we can elevate the quality of service, thus raising the market’s expectations and creating a better product.”
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Brady Mills As a self-described risk taker who likes to push the boundaries, Brady Mills is a consummate marketing and web professional for companies looking to increase sales and brand awareness through web and direct marketing. After several years in a corporate atmosphere, Mills began to identify areas of weakness in the corporate infrastructure that often hindered the progress of effective sales and marketing. “Some of these companies had the propensity to do so much better,” he explains, “but the teams were so often disconnected that really great ideas never came to fruition. They all suffered from a lack of center, a point that could provide a blueprint of clear, actionable steps to success.” In 2006, Mills took a leap of faith and set off on a journey to create an interactive marketing and development company to help businesses assess their current web marketing process, provide strategic direction, and develop and deploy successful marketing campaigns and tools. Since starting Brady Mills LLC, he has provided email marketing development, design and deployment services, website design, and online marketing for companies like Bank of New York, Pershing Advisor Solutions, Bank of Montreal, Harris Direct, FOREX.com, GAIN Capital, and Allstate. “I like to think that our services help create the missing link that helps promote synergy between all the working parts of the company, bringing out the best in everyone and increasing ROI,” he says. “Our team delivers with clear goals and a solid plan, and we have the resources and expertise to provide as little or as much hands-on development as needed.” Mills is passionate about establishing longlasting relationships with his clients, helping build a strong brand by creating symmetry across multiple campaigns and identifying problems to find creative solutions that ultimately increase longterm productivity, maximize revenue, and reduce expense. “I want to work with people who are passionate about their product and are willing to explore the possibilities to take their company from good to best,” he says. In his free time, the semi-eccentric East Nashvillian enjoys cooking fresh vegetables from his garden and spending time with his partner and their three dogs. Mills is a certified LGBTBE through the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and is currently working on a national GLBT Business Directory and online lead generation tool. You can find out more about this exciting new service at http://glbtdirectory.com or visit www.bradymills.com.
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kyle melley “It’s hard to imagine that all of this started only six moths ago with my grand-mother’s 65-year-old recipe for chocolate and how far it’s come already,” says Kyle Melley, co-owner of Our Sundae Dates. Along with his fiancé, Bradley Allan, Melley began his enterprise by selling chocolate to The Patterson House. From there, the couple expanded to a few shops in Nashville and a bakery in Tampa, Florida, before buying a food truck. Our Sundae Dates now serves a variety of s’mores, whoopie pies, hot chocolate, and Rice Krispie treats. The truck enjoys its weekend visits in Hillsboro Village, where it has become somewhat of a staple, with repeat customers and out-of-towners. “Seeing the reactions of people trying the chocolate for the first time is the most rewarding part of the job,” Melley says. Our Sundae Dates is in the early phases of getting on the television show Shark Tank and has already been featured on the street food-vender website RoamingHunger. com. “We are putting together [our own] website where we invite people to add photos of them and their loved ones enjoying the chocolate, like I used to do with my grandmother,” Melley says. The couple also plans on taking the food truck all over America this coming summer and expanding their product into 20 stores by the end of the year. “My grandmother was the first person I came out to when she was 88 years old—on one of our Sunday dates,” Melley explains, “and she always accepted me for me. That is how I was raised, to view people for who they are, not what they are. This company would be nothing if it weren’t for this amazing woman and beautiful soul that was in my life.” Sadly, he lost her during the summer of 2012, but Melley is grateful that he gets to make chocolate and talk about her everyday. “It is the greatest honor in the world, keeping her name alive.”
Kyle Melley (left) and fiancé Bradley Allan
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Darrin Otto Although over a decade has passed since Darrin Otto starred with Alison Krauss in the #1 hit video “The Lucky One,” he’s still humbled when her fans acknowledge him. “It was crazy for a couple of years, back when the song was a hot,” Otto says of the Grammy-winning song whose video played in constant rotation. “I remember I was working on another project during that time and Tracy Byrd said, ‘Hey, you’re that guy in Alison’s video.’ I was—and still am—grateful for being asked to be in the video and flattered even today when someone may recognize me.” After performing in Branson, Missouri, for most of the 1990s, Otto moved to Nashville in 1999 chasing dreams of singer stardom. Even with a couple of regional independent radio singles under his belt, reality set in six years later, and he decided to switch his focus. “I was getting a lot of requests to do TV hosting and commercial print modeling,” he says. Otto has since hosted numerous television projects, including national and international infomercials, corporate films, and special events. He has also been a pitchman in commercials and on shopping networks for everything from portable spas to men’s skin care. “The Lucky One” video isn’t the only video he’s appeared in either; He’s worked with stars like Carrie Underwood, ZZ Top, Brad Paisley, James Otto (no relation), Montgomery Gentry, Eli Young Band, Gretchen Wilson, and others. From time to time, his smile can be seen in print ads for national brands, including Car Max, Sonic Drive-In, and O’Charley’s. Otto also spends a lot of time giving back to the community, and Variety, The Children’s Charity of Iowa, is the most near to his heart. “Being from Iowa, I love this charity,” he says. “March 2014 will mark my 26th consecutive year of being a part of this amazing telethon and organization. It truly humbles me every year.” Each year, celebrities from around the world and literally thousands of central Iowa locals volunteer to help Variety raise millions of dollars for the kids of Iowa and surrounding states. Otto is currently developing show ideas for television. “I think that I just love the creative side of the entertainment business,” he says. “I’ve created shows in several genres and am developing them with my manager. We’ve received some great responses, and I’m excited to see where it all goes.”
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Mark Allyn Nimmo When Mark Allyn Nimmo came to Krank Nashville in 2012, he knew the indoor-cycling and strength-training studio opened by Sarah Jane Hill and Kelly Dunn was a place he could call home. In less than a year with Krank Nashville, Nimmo has been invited to take on the new challenges associated with co-ownership in the growing company. “My focus will be to establish new business relationships with companies, such as Schwinn and TRX, handle day-to-day operations, and develop new business strategies to promote growth and sustainability,” Nimmo explains. While his immediate efforts will be to increase Krank’s brand recognition in the Nashville area, Nimmo’s long-term goals are much more ambitious. “Our goal is to expand Krank into other areas of Middle Tennessee and eventually push into larger markets,” he says. Nimmo goes on to explain that while challenges will arise as Krank competes with large gyms like the YMCA or Planet Fitness, Krank offers greater opportunities for one-on-one attention and individualized instruction. Its smaller class sizes (a maximum of 20 attendees per class) and boutique style offers clients the focused attention they deserve in a results-driven environment. “The fitness business is ever-evolving,” he says. “I am constantly learning about new and better ways to train. Education is key.” Nimmo’s work ethic is apparent, as he can often be found with a textbook in hand finishing his degree in exercise science or be seen dancing on stage at TPAC with the Nashville Ballet. As he successfully balances each day’s tasks, he knows both his contributions and the strength of his team are critical to his success and the success of Krank Nashville. “I am only as strong as my team, and my team is very strong.” Nimmo also attributes much of his success to his partner (and Krank’s web developer), Brady Mills. “He keeps me grounded and from jumping off the deep end when things get crazy,” he says. With such a drive to succeed, Nimmo is determined to lead Krank to new heights.
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Bryan S. Wilcox Bryan S. Wilcox has had an outstanding first year with RE/ MAX Elite. Originally entering the real estate world on a small team, primarily focusing on new construction, Wilcox has traveled a long way. When the easy path to success he was promised underdelivered, he broke off from his original team leader and used his marketing and social media skills to brand himself. Being a self-motivated, self-producing agent, Wilcox successfully closed his first million dollars in homes and started The Buyn With Bryan Team. “With the knowledge, patience, and experience of being a HUD broker, I was able to apply what I have learned to work successfully with first-time home buyers, first-time home sellers, investors, and relocation clients,” he says. After closing a little over $2 million in sales his first year, Wilcox has been recognized as a multi-million dollar producer; however, his journey to success has not been easy. Even after severing ties with many friends and ending an engagement, Wilcox has stayed the course and focused on his career. “It helps to stay positive and know that every day is a new day and opportunity,” he says. Wilcox is looking forward to growing his team in the next year and expanding his market into luxury real estate. Because of his distinguished accomplishments as a young LGBT entrepreneur, Wilcox now hosts a bi-weekly segment on The Tonya Esquibel Real Estate Show, featured on the radio station Super Talk 99.7.
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Wesley Summers With so many creative minds in Nashville, it can become easy to get lost in the crowd, but Wesley Summers knows his graphic design business, Artistic W Designs, is different. “If I had to pick three words to describe myself, they would be altruistic, autistic, and artistic,” he says, explaining how these three traits combine to create a very unique approach to graphic design and allow him to use his gifts to help advance his clients’ passions. “Altruism is at the core of who I am,” Summers mentions. “I have a heart for helping people and using my art to do so. That is why I volunteer, with Chris Sanders, as marketing director for the Tennessee Equality Project.” Summers has also volunteered with OutCentral, Nashville in Harmony, and the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “These organizations are the life blood of Nashville’s LGBT community and have a direct impact on helping people—that is my passion. My donated work has repaid me 100 times over, in smiling faces and changed lives.” Summers explains that autism and his art are really one and the same. “An autism activist, Temple Grandin said, ‘I think autistic people would make awesome graphic designers.’ She was right,” he says. “I am what is called a pattern thinker. We think in abstract images as opposed to words or feelings.” Autism can and has been a huge handicap in Summers life, but as a creative individual, he feels it can also be one of his greatest strengths. “I have been thinking in pictures from birth, and that completely changes the creative process from beginning to end, which produces great results.”
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Dollar General GETS EQUAL by Ben Rock
The EQUAL Employee Resource Group at Dollar General Corporation, based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, has come off a very successful first year of existence. A group that focuses on employee education on the importance of workplace inclusion and community engagement, EQUAL initially began with only 12 LGBT and ally employees at the company’s corporate headquarters. At year’s end, however, the group has grown to nearly 70 members strong. EQUAL hosted two high-profile speakers at events this past year. During Pride month, Lisa Howe, executive director of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the importance of equality in the workplace and shared her experiences leading up to her present role with the Chamber. Ken Mehlman, global head of public affairs for KKR & Co. and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, spoke during diversity month in October and shared his views on bringing your whole self to work and his journey of publicly coming out several years ago on the national stage. Both events were widely attended and received a wonderful reception by members of Dollar General.
EQUAL Pride Booth
On the community front, EQUAL has been very active with The Oasis Center, Dining Out for Life, and the Nashville CARES AIDS Walk. “We have embraced Just Us at the Oasis Center in a continued partnership,” said David Brzozowski, chairman of EQUAL and a senior training manager with Dollar General. “We raised over $5,000 for Just Us in 2013 by hosting a talent show of our employees in July and a holiday concert in November where our membership made baked goods for donations. The very talented employees at Dollar General once again performed to raise donations as well.” In addition to raising funds, the group held a clothing drive in the spring and doubled the clothing options at the Oasis Center. “Our communications chairperson is a very talented graphic designer and is responsible for the logos for both the Day of Silence and the Ally for All programs this past year, which Oasis Center spearheaded in greater Nashville Schools,” Brzozowski said. “All of these events allowed us to introduce these important community initiatives to a population that may never have heard about [Dollar General’s efforts] if it weren’t for EQUAL.”
Lisa Howe flanked by EQUAL Board members after speaking during Gay Pride Month at DG Headquarters
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One of EQUAL’s proudest moments came at the this year’s 25th Anniversary Nashville Pride, marking the first time Dollar
photos courtesy of Dollar General
General hosted a booth and had a presence at the festivities. “The response has been overwhelming,” Brzozowski said. “To this day, we have customers and other community members, both LGBT and allies, commenting on how terrific it was to see Dollar General at Pride. The support by the company was unwavering as evidenced by the giveaway bags and outstanding assistance we received to make the event happen. We are excited to be at this coming year’s Pride once again.” Dollar General has a full slate of activities planned for 2014 and is continuing to open doors to educational events for not only EQUAL members but all Dollar General employees. “It’s important for everyone to understand the importance of inclusion and what that looks like to an LGBT employee or an ally,” Brzozowski explained. “We also want to make an even bigger difference in the community. Our partnership with The Oasis Center and the Just Us group is continuing to build. We want to continue assisting in making Nashville a more inclusive place to live and work while allowing the community to see that Dollar General has a healthy, inclusive mindset of its LGBT and ally population. We’re only getting started, and I, for one, am very proud of the EQUAL members and the entire Dollar General population for welcoming us with open arms and supporting us every step of the way.”
Advocating for Same Sex Partners Financial and Legal Issues • Estate Protection • Personal Protection • Income Protection • Tax Protection • Investment Protection An industry leader in educating clients, peers, and adult learners in estate planning and wealth transfer, Frank C. Weightman, PH.D., CEP, is a strong advocate for the Nashville LGBT community. His office is located at 341 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 210, Franklin, TN 37067, 615.261.4632. Securities and advisory services offered through FSC Securities Corporation, member FINRA/SIPC. Radian Partners is not affiliated with FSC or registered as a broker-dealer or investment advisor.
impersonators, comedians, singers, and rappers. This array of entertainers has performed at numerous pageants throughout the United States and Canada, where Mac and her partner, Stallion, performed at the International Drag King Extravaganza. The Mr. Esquire Pageant has represented a grand ensemble of talent for 18 years with contestants from all over the Southeast. At the first Mr. Esquire Pageant in 1996, over 300 people came to watch 13 contestants compete at The Connection in Nashville. “It was standing room only,” Mac says of that first event. “In 2002, we moved the pageant to the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel; the crowd was at capacity. Then, it was repeated at the Gibson Showcase, a place where little to no gay events were held, and the marquee displayed the Mr. Esquire Pageant.” Mac has found similar success with the Ms. Tennessee Diamond Diva Pageant with its focus on innovative, feminine, and sexy creative talent for the past eight years, but her company has been involved in even more events in Nashville recently.
photo by Rhino Pictures
Mackin' It With Mac by Dan J. Groover Mac is no stranger to the LGBT community. As owner of the unique entertainment company Mac Productions and as the founder and owner of both the Ms. Tennessee Diamond Diva Pageant and the Mr. Esquire Pageant, one of the longest-standing, premier pageants in the Southeast, Mac is a very busy individual that keeps many irons in the fire. In addition to several ongoing production projects, Mac is a board member for both Nashville Pride and Nashville Black Pride, the coordinator of Sisters United (part of BASU), and the former off-campus advisor for Tennessee State University’s Gay & Straight Alliance. Mac Productions is an equal-opportunity company that focuses on discovering, developing, and promoting innovative and creative talent. Its specialty is the production of show performances and pageants with an emphasis on male impersonation. Other talents her company has promoted include female
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Mac Productions just completed its annual Toys for Tots event at PLAY Dance Bar on December 12 and will be hosting a pageant meeting at the Church Street bar on January 17 for those interested in learning more about shows and pageants. Mac is the Nashville Pride Drag Stage Coordinator for 2014, sponsored by Tribe and PLAY. Along with the Mr. Esquire Pageant every October and the Ms. Tennessee Diamond Diva Pageant for real girls every August, Mac contributes to the Nashville Pride Pageant and the Nashville Pride Black Pride weekend. Mac is also involved with Nashville CARES, Hate to Drag, and GLSEN among many other organizations and charities. In 2013, Mac partnered with Atlanta-based One Woman’s Enterprise to bring the movie StudZmen to Nashville. “I hope to bring more movies and entertainment to Nashville,” she says, explaining that she is currently in talks to bring the International Drag King Extravaganza to Nashville. For her work in the Nashville community, Mac has been the recipient of the 2009 Brother’s United Community Service Award, the 2011 Bianca Page Community Service Award, and OutCentral’s 2013 Honored Autumn Award. She has even been featured in the 2013 book 100 Most Influential Gay Entertainers in America. “Mac Productions gives a lot of opportunity for new entertainers and people in the community to learn, grow, and experience new things,” Mac says. She encourages young entrepreneurs to “follow your dreams, have passion, and dedication for anything you do and work hard. Learn a lot about what you want to do and do your homework.”
Laura Bell Bundy MULTIPLE TALENTS FOR MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES by Ben Rock
Laura Bell Bundy rarely gets a break. On a relaxed day that was only supposed to include a short phone interview and some laundry before a night in Las Vegas with her girlfriends, her washing machine explodes. “I now have no more clean socks,” she exclaims with a frazzled laugh. “I have already been matching striped ones with solids and knit matching the different feelings of socks, like a running sock with a walking sock.” She laughs again. “I’m wearing my boyfriend’s socks today.” For a young woman with major supporting roles on both FX’s Anger Management and The CW’s Hart of Dixie who is also managing a production company while working on a new country album, it makes sense that Bundy would be a bit behind on her laundry. “The good thing about it is my job is my hobby,” she says. “It’s like when you’re a kid and you play, you’re playing pretend, which is just acting. That’s why they call it doing plays or playing music; it’s playing. It’s fun! I feel like as an actor, they don’t pay me to act; they pay me to sit around and wait. The acting is the fun part. With music, music is the fun part; all the schlepping is the hard part.” All that fun is what gained Bundy her initial following as she took over as Galinda in the Broadway production of Wicked before launching the hugely successful role of Elle Woods in the musical Legally Blonde, and she has been racking up fans ever since, especially in her recent television roles.
“I love working with Charlie [Sheen],” she says of her role as Jordan Denby on Anger Management. “He’s a hoot and a half, and he’s so much fun. I’m just really enjoying it. “With Hart of Dixie, the highlight is that I’m pretty much doing an impersonation of my mom, and it’s been really good therapy for me. My mom is such a big character: she’s like Dolly Parton meets Donald Trump. Whenever I’m trying to figure out if this choice is grounded enough or honest, I think what would Lorna do? “My mom’s name is Lorna Bell Bundy,” she adds with a laugh. “I don’t know if that explains anything at all!” Whether on stage or film, Bundy thinks the best part is being with the cast, building close relationships with those people, and telling their characters’ stories to an audience together. That storytelling led her back to her previous love of country music, and she launched her second album, Achin’ and Shakin’, in 2010, along with a sketch comedy web series, Cooter County— that Bundy affectionately refers to as this generation’s Hee Haw. “Cooter County is a little bit quirky,” she says. “It’s a little off the wall. It’s definitely politically incorrect. It definitely pushes the boundaries a bit. Some of the sketches are the Euneeda Know Show or Unbeweavable with Shocantelle Brown, where we have guests on the show and they have to do Shocantelle’s hair care or confessions of a girl with a weave. We have a lot of fun with it.” While she would love to see her wacky cast of characters on a Saturday night variety show with music, dancing, and sketch comedy, Bundy would rather keep Cooter County as a web series so that it keeps its personality and doesn’t become bland. “I really feel like Cooter County is this little world I created to help me focus my multiple-personality disorder,” she says, laughing. “My whole life, I’ve
always been doing these characters, but there was never a place for them. Cooter County was this world where I could create and I could play, like in a sandbox. I could actually expand on some characters that I had thought of. “Some of the characters were just a name to begin with,” she continues. “Euneeda Biscuit was just a name, and then I created the character. The character of Shocantelle Brown was just me being dumb with all my friends on Legally Blonde. We would do ghetto night, and Shocantelle Brown would come to ghetto night. She didn’t have a name, and she didn’t have a place of work. She was just me doing ghetto.” Producing Cooter County herself with those friends from Legally Blonde led Bundy to establish her production company, LBBTV. “It stands for Little Bit Bitchy,” she says, coyly. “I was producing Cooter County on my own and funding it, and then I started to acquire this great team of women and gay men that were doing Cooter County with me. I decided to form a production company and really start producing some things in addition to Cooter County.” Bundy began with music videos, her own and another musician’s. Then, she started to produce a country music style show. “My favorite thing to do is to create, to come up with ideas,” she explains, “and having a production company allows me to do that. So, I’ve been working on building my infrastructure. We’ve not done huge things, but I hope at some point that becomes more of a possibility. I definitely think, in the last five years, I’ve really started to train that muscle. “Almost every single music video I’ve done, I’ve actually had the concept for,” she continues. “‘Giddy On Up,’ I came up with the concept for that when I wrote it. The same with ‘Drop on By’ and ‘Two Step.’ Then, there’s the four concepts I had for ‘Kentucky Dirty.’”
For “Kentucky Dirty,” her latest single from Big Machine Records, Bundy went with her idea that was mostly University of Kentucky themed, because the song had been featured on a documentary about the UK’s basketball team and band. “We made the ‘Kentucky Dirty’ video very much about Kentucky and getting dirty in the field and used the University of Kentucky dancers,” she says. “‘Two Step’ was straight up in my dad’s factory.” A few of the LBBTV crew appeared in the videos as well, and Bundy calls them her dream team. “One of [the girls in the video], Tiffany Engan, choreographed the video,” Bundy explains, “and she’s one of the twins that’s in Cooter County. She and [her sister] Brooke Engan are also choreographers and great writers. The girl who shot the video, who’s the DP and co-directed with me, her name is Becky Fluke, and we’ve done four videos together, two of which haven’t come out yet. They all did ‘Two Step’ and ‘Kentucky Dirty’ with me. “We’re working a lot on very, very small budgets,” she adds. “I’ve learned how to do things very inexpensively, and it’s not always what you want.” However, working on those small budgets has allowed Bundy greater control of her musical creativity. “Music that excites me is music that is original,” she says. “When I was dropped from Universal Records, which is the record label I was at until last December, I was wondering what I really wanted to do musically.”
“‘Two Step’ was a song I had written at the last label for a former project,” she says. “It was the song that kind of inspired this whole new project. ‘Two Step’ had the beats in it; it had the dance track that we wrote a country tune for. I wanted to continue to do that, because I love country music and, being from Kentucky, was kind of born into that really. But, I’m also a dancer; I love to get down and go party.” Bundy then wondered how cool it would be if the world of hip-hop and dance music could merge with that of country music. What if she put beats with banjos? “When I was sixteen and driving my jeep in Kentucky, I would be going down the street with Tupac and Dixie Chicks and Bone Thugs and Shania all on a mixtape,” she says, “and that’s what we’d listen to at our school dances. We’d slow dance to Garth Brooks, and then we’d be dry humping each other on the dance floor to hip-hop music.” While several artists are exploring this musical blend, Bundy has noticed there are not a lot of women doing what she’s trying to do.
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“I’m putting out these monthly mixtapes, which are these five to six minute mashups of country songs with hip-hop songs,” she says. “You can find them on my website if you go to www.laurabellbundy. com. You’ll hear how I weave hip-hop songs in and out of country songs and vice versa. It’s like a party mix for your night out or your tailgating or your car or your pre-party or whatever. That’s the point. “I call them Beats & Banjos, but I’m thinking of calling it Mashville,” she adds. “In those mix tapes, I’m featuring a minute or two of a brand new song; sometimes it’s a song that no one’s heard yet. The most recent one, I did ‘Two Step,’ but I did an interesting mashup with Usher’s ‘Yeah!’. The first mixtape is called ‘Do Si Do,’ because it features a song of mine called ‘Do Si Do’ that’s brand new and isn’t out.” The mixtapes are a fun way for Bundy to get her music out while allowing her to get back to a place of creativity and passion. “There’s a really fine line between commerce and creativity, and you have to straddle that when you’re a recording artist, especially if you’re a recording artist at a major label,” Bundy says. “That’s been hard for me. I think right now I’m just really passionate about making music and making it interesting and cool and hoping that the audience finds it.” Listen to the Beats & Banjos mixtapes at www.laurabellbundy.com. Catch up on the shenanigans of Cooter County at www.cootercounty. com. photos by Jeremy Cowart courtesy of Big Machine Records
Bundy realized she didn’t have to do anything. She didn’t have to make music for the Billboard charts. Instead, she began looping hiphop beats with country music samples and then writing songs over the mashup.
Yet, she is still taking it a step farther.
LOCAL STARS place for groups and organizations to meet.
OUTCENTRAL NASHVILLE’S LGBT LIVING ROOM by A.J. Busé It began as an idea just a few years ago: Nashville needed a place where people could congregate, meet, talk, and be inspired. Kevin Medley and Ted Jensen, co-owners of the former OutLoud bookstore on Church Street, had wanted a community center for a long time and originally envisioned it as an outreach of the bookstore. What began as an idea eventually became OutCentral, which opened in 2008 in a nearby space, the former location of World’s End. Now, five years later, OutCentral has solidified that idea into reality and much more. OutCentral, a 501[c]3 nonprofit, is Tennessee’s first cultural center dedicated to arts and education programming for the GLBTQIF (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, family, and friends) community. OutCentral creates a positive and energetic environment for inclusive social functions and recreation and is a
Within OutCentral, there is office space for rent. Individuals, nonprofits, small businesses, and startups are headquartered at the location, which also offers a board room and a great room that can be used for meeting space and special events. The founders had originally hoped that rental income would cover all expenses; however, demand and use has been greater than expected, so OutCentral also holds three main fundraisers: • Autumn Honors This annual awards ceremony recognizes individuals and organizations who have made—and continue to make—a difference in Middle Tennessee through visual and performing arts, literature and journalism, fashion, cuisine, philanthropy, education, and athletics. • Gay 5k Formerly called the Rainbow Run, this event was originally held the morning of the Nashville Pride Festival. A couple years ago, the OutCentral board renamed it the Gay 5k, moved it to Shelby Bottoms Park, and scheduled the race for later in June. Participation tripled that year and grew even more in 2013. • OutCentral Idol A live singing talent competition was held last April as a one-time event but was so successful that OutCentral plans to bring it back again this spring. With all the incredible singing talent in Nashville, this just may grow into a can’t-miss entertainment spectacular.
Joe Morris, Chairman of the Board
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Friendly volunteers are on hand to greet visitors and tenants to OutCentral, located on Church Street next to Canvas Lounge, in the former World’s End location.
Collaborate. Educate. Empower. Joe Morris, a journalist and publication writer, was chairman of the all-volunteer board for the 2013 year. He says that OutCentral has to be all things to all people because of the sheer number of stakeholders the organization serves. “When you tout that you’re serving the GLBTQIF community, you’ve got to make sure that what you offer can benefit people in all of those groups,” Morris says. OutCentral hosts lots of regular events: yoga classes, game nights, movie nights, AA meetings, book clubs, and special interest group meetings. Several LGBT-related groups hold their meetings at the facilities as well: Tennessee Equality Project, Nashville Pride, Human Rights Campaign, Nashville in Harmony, the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, PFLAG, and more. “My favorite night is when I see a volunteer at the welcome desk, a book club meeting in the great room, and a committee meeting in the board room,” says Morris, beaming. “The vibrancy of everyone coming and going is why we’re here.” OutCentral also serves an important role as a clearing house that connects people with the services they need. If someone seeks HIV information and support, OutCentral will connect him to Nashville CARES or StreetWorks. If a scared teen from a small Tennessee town is afraid to come out, OutCentral will connect her with GLSEN, the gay, lesbian, and straight education network. OutCentral truly does try to be all things to all people.
1. Serve the whole community. 2. Respect every individual, household and group. 3. Develop positive, healthy relationships. 4. Encourage all who come through its doors to achieve their fullest potential.
are in Nashville. OutCentral has now celebrated five years of serving as an information center, office space, meeting place, special events location, art house, and resource hub, and it has held true to its core vision: “Through hard work and a good bit of inspiration, our community has built a positive, energy-filled space where organizations meet and collaborate, those in need meet those who can help, and laughter replaces fear.” It really is the community’s living room. OutCentral is located at 1709 Church Street in Nashville. For rental and meeting information, to see the calendar of events, or to make a tax-deductible donation visit www. OutCentral.org or call (615) 864-8182.
photos courtesy of OutCentral
Morris likes to think of OutCentral as “the community’s living room.” It is a place where anyone in the community, from anywhere in Middle Tennessee, can safely and comfortably gather and live their authentic lives without fear, especially teens and residents of rural counties outside Nashville, where LGBT people are not as accepted as they
OutCentral's four core values
In addition to office/space rentals and annual fundraisers, donors are an important funding source for OutCentral.
The Great Room hosts such events as yoga classes, receptions, movie nights and art shows (shown here).
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Abby Rubenfeld ATTORNEY, ADVOCATE, AND... BASKETBALL STAR? by A.J. Busé photo courtesy of Abby Rubenfeld
Many people in Nashville know Abby Rubenfeld’s name, but few know much about her. Not only is she a well-known attorney and equal-rights advocate, but she is also a wife, a mother, a pet owner, and—during her college years—quite an athlete. Born in 1953 about 90 miles west of Albany, New York, Rubenfeld grew up in Sarasota, Florida, between younger brother Luke and older brother Paul Rubens (yes, that Paul Rubens, who changed his name when he began his acting career). As part of a Jewish family, she always had a deep sense of justice and fairness. Attending school in a very segregated system, she witnessed overt racism and bigotry first hand and had personal experiences with prejudice. As far back as she can remember, Rubenfeld always wanted to be a lawyer. “It was all part of my master plan to run for public office, then be a senator, and eventually become president of the United States,” she said with a chuckle. “That didn’t exactly work out, but I have always wanted to help people.” She emphasizes that she holds a true belief in justice and a strong desire to fight discrimination in any form. Rubenfeld attended college at Princeton University shortly after it became co-ed. She became the university’s first female class president and lettered in both crew and basketball, a feat that is still one of her proudest accomplishments. “I’m only five feet tall, but I lied and told them that I was really five-feet-two,” she bragged, “like that made a difference.” She still holds the unofficial record of being the shortest basketball player in Princeton history. After graduation, Rubenfeld took off a year, came out as lesbian, and then attended the Boston University School of Law, where she earned her Juris Doctor in 1979. While there, she helped create the school’s Gay and Lesbian Law Association.
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Attorney Abby Rubenfeld (right) married Helia Rethmann five years ago in San Francisco.
To begin practicing law, Rubenfeld knew she wanted to move back down South but not too far. She had really enjoyed Nashville while working a summer internship and, at the time, also had a girlfriend who lived in the city. Rubenfeld packed up everything and moved to Nashville, just in time for her girlfriend to break up with her. Bad timing, perhaps, but Rubenfeld still loved Nashville and has lived the city ever since, except for a three-year stint in the 1980s as a legal director at Lambda Legal in Washington, D.C. Rubenfeld is exceptionally proud of the differences she has made in people’s lives. “I work every day to help people make their lives easier,” she said with determination in her voice and a glisten in her eyes. Her work toward making the legal profession better and improving laws are two other things that are important motivators for her. Rubenfeld was even instrumental in getting Tennessee’s sodomy laws overturned. Along with her legal work, Rubenfeld is on the board of ACLU of Tennessee and formerly served on the board for the HRC. She also teaches the Sexual Orientation and the Law class as an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University.
Marriage Equality in Tennessee In October 2013, Rubenfeld and a team of lawyers from across Tennessee, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state constitutional amendment that prohibits recognition of marriages per-
formed in other states, even if the couple had been residents of the other state at the time of the marriage. She filed this suit on behalf of four couples who were married legally in the states where they lived at the time but who subsequently moved to Tennessee where they are no longer considered married. This is an urgent issue for these couples, particularly Drs. Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty, who are expecting their first child this spring. Because of the immediate effect on these couples, a motion for a preliminary injunction was filed in November 2013 asking that the state not enforce the anti-marriage equality law against the four couples. Under current law, the non-biological parent may be denied the right to make medical decisions if necessary, could be prevented from being present at the birth of his or her child, and may not have any legal parental rights at all. “This is a pure recognition case arguing that it violates the United States Constitution to deny recognition to couples who have legally married in other states simply because they are of the same sex. Given the immediate and irreparable harm to these couples from enforcing the discriminatory laws, as well as the likelihood that we will prevail in the case, we are asking that those laws not be enforced against these couples while the lawsuit proceeds,” she explained. Now that the federal government recognizes all married couples no matter where they live, it won’t be much longer before all states, including Tennessee, will do the same. As for what’s next, Rubenfeld’s goals include “getting this marriage thing fixed.” With passion in her voice, she assertively explained, “We have got to recognize the rights of non-biological parents. It’s really a children’s rights issue and includes families with gay parents as well as families with straight parents.” An avid Titans football fan, Rubenfeld is married to Helia Rethmann, and they have three daughters between them. Being a mom and a wife are important, but Rubenfeld is not planning to settle down quite yet. “I just turned 60, but I’m not going to retire any time soon,” she said. Maybe it’s the drive and determination that this fivefoot-tall attorney learned on the college basketball court that keeps her going.
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TIME TO PLAY
On December 5, PLAY Dance Bar opened its second location to an at-capacity crowd of over 1,000 revelers in Louisville, Kentucky. The 30,000 square-foot space is the newest nightspot in a city that is experiencing a growth in popularity within the LGBT community. “We were able to build just the layout and size club we liked,” said Todd Roman, PLAY Dance Bar’s co-owner. “The additional square footage allows us a ton of versatility and the opportunity to build out an additional business or have the ability to expand the existing space if the need ever arises.” Roman and his team developed this model by combining the concepts of both Tribe and PLAY Nash-
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by Joey Amato
ville into a single facility. The Louisville location features a huge theater, dance bar, and a separate video lounge. There is also a large patio that guests can access from the lounge bar. “We began seriously looking into Louisville about three years ago,” Roman explained. “It took two years just to find the right building for our needs. There was a huge up-swell of Louisville customers that frequent Nashville, asking us to look at the city to expand.” The new location is located at 1101 E Washington Street, just a quick three hour drive from Nashville. For more information, visit http://playdancebar. com.
photos by Focal Expressions by Ned
HRC Federal Club Holiday Event
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Nashville's Top Spots FOR HEALTH & FITNESS by Mark Allyn Nimmo
While Nashville is well-known as one of the top cities for music, it is also home to some of the best local health and fitness locations and organizations in the country. No matter the point in a fitness journey, everyone can benefit from one or more of these groups.
The Chrome Bar Built by one of the pole industry’s leading ladies, Alethea Austin, the Chrome Bar is a brand new pole dance and fitness studio located in the heart of Nashville, between downtown and the Gulch. This studio’s style is as distinctive as its class offerings, including basic pole dancing, chair dancing, a “twerk and twirl” class, and much more. This is definitely for the more adventurous fitness enthusiast but SO MUCH FUN! www.thechromebar.com
Climb Nashville Climb Nashville is the South’s destination for indoor rock climbing. With 12,000+ square feet of climbing, 40-foot walls, and cross training classes (InnerStrength abs class, InnerStrength CHAINS class, and Yoga), you are bound to get a workout you’ll never forget. One of the best things about Climb Nashville is the friendly and helpful staff that is always available to answer any question and make sure you have a safe and fun climbing experience. www.climbnashville.com
East Nashville Running Club
Every Wednesday night at 6 p.m., you will see a group of runners gathering at the corner of 11th and Holly Streets in East Nashville. This is not a group of friends, and they may not even know each other. It is the East Nashville Running club, hosted by EastNastyForLife. There is no fee to run and no email list to sign up for; they simply ask that you come and run. After running the predetermined three to six mile route, the gang meets back where they started and enjoys happy hour at local bars in the 5 Points area. http://eastnastyforlife.com/
Hot Box Fitness Hot Box Fitness is one of the newest and hottest workouts in Nashville. While on the surface it appears to be a kickboxing gym, it is much more than that. All classes are held in a heated room and participants box their way through a one-hour full-
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body workout. The trainers are edgy, and the music is even more intense. If you kick box regularly, you will not want to miss your chance at Hot Box. http://hb4.me/
Juice Nashville is a family-owned, cold-pressed juicery born and based right here in Nashville. They are the first juicery in the state and cold press and bottle amazing fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Each bottle is handcrafted and blended in their commercial juice kitchen, using 100% raw and unpasteurized ingredients (no preservatives, no sugar, no water). www.thejuicenashville.com
Kali Yuga Yoga Kali Yuga Yoga’s classes are based upon the three primary elements of Pitta, Kapha, and Vata. The goals of these different types of classes are to complement your particular Dosha and allow you to restore the natural balance in your physical system for optimal health. The small intimate setting allows you to feel like a member of the Kali Yuga community versus just another participant. Pitta classes resemble a traditional hot yoga class, while Kapha classes consist of deep stretches and relaxation techniques, and Vata classes are a highly active flow series. www.kaliyugayoga.com
Simply Balanced Located in the heart of Nashville, Simply Balanced is Nashville’s premiere wellness center offering Pilates, yoga, Gyrotonic, and massage. Whether you are an exercise novice or a seasoned athlete, a twenty-something or a grandparent, their dedicated team will help you transform the way your body looks, feels, and performs. At Simply Balanced, wellness is integrative and balanced. They believe Pilates, yoga, Gyrotonic, and massage can work together to strengthen, rehabilitate, challenge, and revitalize your body. Simply Balanced offers group Pilates, mat, and yoga classes as well as one-on-one Pilates and Gyrotonic sessions, specialized massage therapy, and post-injury rehabilitation. www.simplybalancednashville.com
Turnip Truck From the outside it looks like just another grocery store, but walk inside and you will soon realize that the Turnip Truck is much more than that. Offering local organic produce, this little gem is the best place to pick up your healthy living necessities. Along with food, they offer everything from alternative medicine options to natural oils. www.theturniptruck.com
The Wild Cow is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Nashville. Almost all their food is purchased in its whole form, so everything served is made fresh in-house. The company gloats about its lack of a microwave and freezer stating that most of the produce used is locally grown and organic. One of the best things about Wild Cow is that 10% of its sales from the first Thursday of every month go to a local charity. www.thewildcow.com
photos by MyL Pac for MPack Photography
dessa A DIFFERENT KIND OF RAPPER by Estella Pan
Dessa’s musical path was forged long before she took the stage for the first time: the day her parents met in a music store paved the way for the rapper and lyricist’s lifelong love affair with words. “Language and verbal communication were important in my family,” she said. “If I could argue my way into a later curfew, that argument was entertained. My parents may have regretted that policy later, but it was a great motivator to help me develop a facility with words.” Dessa’s newest release, Parts of Speech, explores common themes portrayed through unexpected viewpoints. “I’ve always been attracted to big themes: love, loss, death, communion, and reconciliation,” she said. “On Parts of Speech, I’ve tried to regard these ideas from new camera angles. “I almost always write true stories, but on this record I’ve used new perspectives to relay them. I sometimes write as a man, sometimes as a removed narrator, sometimes from the trenches in the first person. Some of the songs on this record sound very different from one another, but I think there’s a lyrical consistency that gives listeners the sense that the entire project comes from the same writer with a distinctive voice. “Sitting down to write the songs on Parts of Speech,” she added, “I brought a better understanding of songwriting, a better understanding of the craft. I’ve worked with instrumentalists, producers, and other writers to become a better musician. I take musical risks on this record that wouldn’t have occurred to me before: there are some songs with strong pop melodies and some songs with experimental tempo changes.” Given the broad generalizations that have been formed regarding rap and hip-hop music, Dessa believes a change is in progress.
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“When I first told my dad that I wanted to be a rapper, he told me plainly that he was surprised that I wanted to be a part of something that seemed misogynistic, violent, and preoccupied with material possessions,” she said. “I know why he made those associations with rap; if you’re not a regular listener, the flashing images on TV can support a pretty vapid view of the form. But, rap culture isn’t monolithic. The braggadocio of rap is, in part, a direct response to the fact that an entire swath of our community has been marginalized for a very long time.” Dessa put together a rap mixtape that included songs from Outkast and P.O.S.; then, she gave it to her father, exposing him to an unfamiliar side of rap. “For me, part of the challenge of loving rap and loving rappers is that talented people can say some really regressive things about women and, particularly, about gay people,” Dessa said, explaining her own struggles with the industry. “In my 20s, I vilified those people and wrote them off wholesale. Now, I’ve come to believe that there are fewer villains than there are evil deeds. “I think a conversation can go a long way and rap is changing,” she continued. “Advocates like Russell Simmons and artists like Frank Ocean are evidence of as much. Brother Ali, an accomplished artist from my state, wrote a beautiful piece in the Huffington Post about how in his younger years he used the word faggot in his verses, never
thinking about how that might affect gay listeners—in fact, never thinking a gay person might be listening to his music. Now, as an adult, a father, and a more informed citizen, he’s come to realize that word can’t be used by rappers out of its societal context. Being critical of rap culture can be complicated, especially for a woman with my racial background, but vibrant conversations about ethics and social causes are as much a part of hip-hop culture as anything is.” When it comes to the music, Dessa feels that she should not have to choose between writing songs and performing “I feel most capable when I’m writing. I’m quite confident in my skills as a lyricist, and in my head, my pitch is never off; there isn’t a note I can’t hit,” she said, comparing the two. “In studio and on stage, however, that’s where my imagination confronts the necessary limitations of my body; it can be enormously frustrating to dream up a part that seems impossible to perform. All the same, the stage is where the human communion happens. To feel connected to my band and to the other people in the room, that sense of togetherness is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.” Fans can listen to tracks from Parts of Speech and view photos and music videos at www.doomtree.net/dessa. Connect with Dessa on Twitter @dessadarling and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dessadarling.
SERENE, HISTORIC GROUNDS IN MIDTOWN NASHVILLE
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• Walking distance to Vanderbilt, Music Row & restaurants • Delicious on-site catering & reserved dining facilities • Complimentary parking 615.340.7500 • RESERVATIONS@SCARRITTBENNETT.ORG • 1008 19TH AVE S • SCARRITTBENNETT.ORG Scarritt-Bennett is a non-profit education, retreat and conference center with a strong commitment to promoting racial equality, cross-cultural understanding, the empowerment of women and spiritual renewal. Your support through the rental of our historic facilities and donations helps us to offer programs that continue this mission.
photo courtesy of Dessa
photos by Joey Amato
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45 Years After Woodstock
AN INTERVIEW WITH ELLIOT TIBER by Sebastian Fortino
A glow of satisfaction radiates from someone who makes the simple act of living an art. Elliot Tiber is one such person. In April, his memoir After Woodstock hits shelves. This is preceded by Saving Woodstock, made into the 2009 Ang Lee film, and Palm Trees on the Hudson, published in 2010. “In After Woodstock, I take myself from the day I left my parents’ dreadful motel in early September 1969,” Tiber said of his journey with a nest egg built, in part, from the financial success of Woodstock. “I headed out west to become a set designer in Hollywood. I then schlepped off to Belgium to be with the love of my life—who pointed out to me, thankfully, Belgium and the Belgian Congo jungle were entirely different points on the map.” This year marks the 45th anniversary of 1969. A year—a chapter—of American history that perhaps no one is more intrinsically connected to than Tiber. It makes perfect sense his third book chronicles what happened next. “The year 1969 remains, for me, the clarion call of my own freedom. It all sprang from Stonewall, the feeling we all had that night when the cops tried to bust us just for being us,” he said. “And that was it, the genie was out of the bottle. A few weeks later, I read about Woodstock being thrown out of Wallkill, [New York]. I had the concert permit in Bethel, I made a call…and the whole world was just reborn.
Tiber said of his preference for leather, a culture that did not necessarily go for what we would be called high-risk sexual behavior today. “I wish I could say the same was true for André. Alas, his choices were different, and I go into that a bit more in the new book. In many ways, it has been some of the toughest stuff that I have had to recall and write about in my life as a writer.” Of course, the writer and artist is always looking forward to the next “big thing” in his life. He has an idea. “I would like to stage a big summer festival called Weddingstock, three days of peace, music, and marriage vows for anyone, gay or straight. I’ve already got the festival name in hand; now, we just have to get it staged somewhere. Tell the world that Elliot Tiber, the Woodstock Daddy, is ready to come out again, and everyone’s invited to join!” Saving Woodstock and Palm Trees on the Hudson are available on Amazon.com and from many retailers. After Woodstock is scheduled to be published in April of this year by Square One Publishers. Visit http://elliottiber.com to learn more about the writer & his upcoming projects.
“If the LGBT community stands to gain anything from that moment in history 45 years ago, it’s that the Woodstock moment was there to set all of us free—gay, straight, male, female, American, Chinese, it didn’t matter. Of course, there were still lots of barriers and closed minds back then; there still are now,” Tiber continued, passionately. “That was a big part of why I split the States in 1971— that, of course, and the love of my life, André Ernotte.” Even before landing in Brussels, Tiber learned from an airline steward that life in Belgium was much more accepting of gays. Walking through markets the couple held hands and kissed on street corners in the rain without fear of harassment. They returned to New York in the late 1970s to what he describes as a new world for the LGBT community. “The irony of the 1970s American gay scene, for me and also for my partner, André, was that we were in Belgium during most of it. Everything was so free and wide open from the late ’70s up to around 1982, when we all started to hear about ‘the gay cancer,’” he explained. “All too soon it had a name, and before André and I knew it, we lost upwards of forty very good, very lovely people.” Many of those lost were driving forces in the arts.
“I was lucky, I think, in that I never went in for actual sexual contact when I would go to clubs on the weekends,”
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